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In Bihar, women prove that they have ‘winnability’

In Bihar, women prove that they have ‘winnability’

By Sumita Jaiswal

Five women MPs are representing Bihar in the 18th Lok Sabha, winning 12.5% of the seats despite parties not giving women candidates their due

Bihar has elected the highest number of women Members of Parliament since the state was bifurcated and Jharkhand created in 2000. Five women have been voted to Parliament after 25 years. The last time this happened was in 1999, when five women were elected in undivided Bihar.

The five women elected from Bihar in the 2024 general election are Vijaya Laxmi Kushwaha (Janata Dal United) from Siwan, Lovely Anand (JDU) from Sheohar, Veena Devi (Lok Janshakti Party-Ramvilas Paswan) from Vaishali, Shambhavi Chaudhary (LJPR) from Samastipur and Misa Bharti (Rashtriya Janata Dal) from Pataliputra.

LJPR and JDU are part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), while RJD is part of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA). According to a report in The Times of India, Bihar elected two women MPs in 2004, three in 2009 (one more in the 2010 bypoll), two in 2014 and three in 2019.

Just 38 women candidates contested this general election in Bihar, among the total of 497 candidates in the fray for the 40 seats—that’s 7.6% women candidates for one of the largest states by Lok Sabha seats. The Congress and BJP did not field any women despite contesting 17 seats and 9 seats respectively. It was up to the allies of these two main national parties to give tickets to women.

It was a close contest in Pataliputra for Bharti, 48, who was up against BJP’s Ram Kirpal Yadav, the sitting MP who was contesting for the third time. She faced Yadav twice before, in 2014 and 2019, and lost both times. Bharti is the oldest child of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi, both former Bihar chief ministers. Ram Kirpal Yadav was once Lalu Prasad’s trusted aide, and Bharti still refers to him as chacha or uncle. The battle was a closely watched one, as it was third time the two were facing off, and because Lalu Prasad himself had once contested from Pataliputra in 2009 and lost. The margin of victory this time, too, was narrow with Bharti polling 49.9% of votes and Ram Kirpal 42.9%, and a difference of just 85,174 votes.

At 25, Shambhavi Chaudhary is one of the youngest MPs in the 18th Lok Sabha. Chaudhary, who won from Samastipur on an LJPR ticket, is a postgraduate who has studied at Lady Shriram College and Delhi School of Economics in Delhi. The 25-year-old defeated Sunny Hazari of Congress by 1,87,251 votes. A third-generation politician, she comes from a family that has represented Bihar at the state and national level for different parties. Her father Ashok Chaudhary is currently a JDU minister in Bihar and was previously with the Congress. Her grandfather, the late Mahaveer Chaudhary, was also a minister and an influential leader in the Bihar Congress. She is married to Sayan Kunal, the son of former IPS officer and social worker Acharya Kunal Kishore.

In Vaishali, LJPR’s Veena Devi, 57, defeated former MLA and RJD candidate Vijay Kumar Shukla by a slim margin of 89,634 votes, retaining her seat for a second term. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, she contested on an LJP ticket (before the party split) and had defeated former Union Minister and RJD veteran Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, who had represented Vaishali from 1996 till 2014 in the Lok Sabha. Devi’s husband Dinesh Prasad Singh is the JDU legislator from Muzaffarpur, but Devi herself has been in politics for over 14 years, first entering the Bihar Legislative Assembly in 2010, representing Gaighat on a BJP ticket.

For the JDU, which contested 16 seats and won 12 in Bihar, Vijaya Laxmi Kushwaha made her electoral debut in Siwan. The wife of former MLA Ramesh Singh Kushwaha, she won a three-cornered battle. She defeated independent candidate, Hena Shahab, who is the wife of former RJD MP and muscleman Shabuddin by 92,857 votes. RJD candidate and former Vidhan Sabha speaker Awadh Bihari Choudhary came in a distant third, though he seemed to be a strong contender during campaigning. A homemaker who prefers Bhojpuri to Hindi, Kushwaha was the victim of many attacks from rival candidates who dismissed her as “barely literate” and “inefficient”. She had the last laugh though: After winning the election, she told a news channel, “If Rabri Devi can become the Chief Minister of Bihar, why can’t I be an MP?”

Also contesting for the JDU was Lovely Anand, who won the Sheohar seat by tiny margin of 29,143 votes, beating RJD’s Ritu Jaiswal. A two-time MLA from Bihar, Anand has also represented Vaishali once in the Lok Sabha after winning a by-election. She is the wife of Anand Mohan Singh, who has been the Sheohar MP twice in the past and was convicted in 1994 for the murder of IAS officer G. Krishnaiah.

In general, women are not considered jitau or winning candidates in Bihar. While most of the women who won this time do have a track record in politics, it is true that they are also well-connected and privileged with the support of influential families. Despite this, it is significant that women have won five out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar—that’s 12.5% of the seats won by women despite being less than 8% of the total candidates—disproving the idea that women are not jitau.

Sumita Jaiswal is a senior journalist and fact-check trainer with 22 years of experience. She is currently based in Siliguri where she works for Dainik Jagran.

Edited by Shalini Umachandran

© 2024 Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI).

Original articles may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes with due credit to

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